It was in 1976 that I first saw The Little Lion called the Löwchen. I fell in love with the breed and was the first person to import them into Australia. One of my Löwchen was the first to win a Best in Group award at an all Breeds Championship Show. I bred from her the first Löwchen to win Best Exhibit in Show at an All Breeds Championship show. I exported the first Löwchen to New Zealand and he was the first dog to go Best in Show All Breeds in New Zealand. I have owned and bred many champions, as well as In Group and In Show winners. I have watched Judges over the years attempting to understand our Breed Standard and so now, some 25 years later, I would like to go through the Standard to support you to judge this breed with confidence.
On my shoulders is the challenge of attempting to help you to be a better judge of this breed. This is sometimes difficult when some of you may have possibly more licences than myself, and as well, this breed is still small in numbers, and often varied in type and balance. As there have only very recently been some books written on Löwchens, it makes it very difficult for you, the judge of the future, to find any information. Standards for all breeds change and vary, because of this I would like to go through the Standard for the Löwchen as best I can at the time of writing. I will write the approved Standard first in ITALICS, following by my "comment" - this is to make it clear that this is my interpretation of the Standard.
It is my belief, and what I have been taught, that no matter how sound, or what its conformation may be, if he is not typical of the breed - he no longer has breed 'type'! Without these breed characteristics, he could be any breed or any cross breed. The same line of reasoning applies to all dog judging. If they do not possess the characteristics for which the breed was cultivated and prized, they are just another common dog and have no reason to be set aside and to be admired as a toy breed.
In the following lecture I will attempt to go through the Standard that is approved for our dogs here in Australia. I will also attempt to describe the meanings in more detail from my experience and what I have been able to learn from the U.K. and the Continent, as well as from some of the original people involved in establishing the breed. Although there are only one or two books available on the breed, the Internet makes it now much easier to be in contact with many breeders and to discuss the breed with other judges all over the world. Therefore, I have taken a lot of care to make sure that I am not putting only my own interpretation on the breed, as this would harm and breed and not help you in judging the Löwchen.
GENERAL APPEARANCE: Coat clipped in traditional lion clip, tail also clipped, topped with plume, giving appearance of a little lion. Strong built, active, well balanced and alert.
Comment: The overall appearance should be that of a strongly built, yet Toy dog. Löwchens should never appear coarse. The description in the Standard "STRONGLY BUILT" describes muscle, not bone. The Löwchen is an 'au naturale' breed, scissoring or trimming, particularly of the face and stylizing of the coat other than the traditional lion clip, is highly undesirable. The Löwchen should appear almost square in outline, with its head held proudly on well-arched neck. A broad head, with round dark eyes and a lovely 'soft' expression are hallmarks of the breed, as is a gaily-carried tail. Another hallmark of the breed is its lively outgoing manner. No feature of the breed should be coarse, overdone or exaggerated.
CHARACTERISTICS: Gay, lively little dog
Comment: Löwchens should have a happy disposition and have an appearance being full of fun.
TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, affectionate, showing no sign of aggression.
Comment: The Löwchen as a breed is relatively easy to train and has a history as a circus performer, and are outgoing by nature. Aggression or nervousness are highly undesirable traits and should never be tolerated as this is a companion dog.
HEAD AND SKULL: Short, fairly broad. Skull flat between the ears, head carried proud and high. Well-defined stop. Short, strong muzzle.
Comment: The Löwchen head is the defining feature of the breed. Overall, it should be fairly broad with a strong, short foreface, which should never be snipey or chinless. There should be a well-defined stop. The head should be fairly broad, but not overly so as coarse 'common' heads should be avoided.
The length of the foreface from the stop to the tip of the nose should be shorter than the length from the stop to the occiput. Expression is of great importance, which should be gentle and appealing. The nose is to be fully pigmented black or brown according to coat colour. Liver and brown dogs to have as dark as possible liver nose.
EYES: Round, dark, large and intelligent. Unbroken pigmentation of eye rims. Pigment to be in accordance with coat colour.
Comment: This puppy has both good eye and nose. The expression is one of intelligence and kindness. Hard, staring expressions are very untypical.
EARS: Pendant, of moderate length with long fringing.
Comment: Ears are set at a level just off the edge of skull, but never as low as the eye, which would give a 'Spaniel' or Poodle appearance. They lie close to the side of the head with moderate sized leathers and good furnishings, giving an appearance of a longer ear.
MOUTH: Jaws strong, with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite (i.e.) The upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Comment: The teeth are set as a conventional dog bite. Mouths have not historically been a brilliant feature of the breed and some allowances may need to be made in an otherwise excellent specimen. Good width is required and the shortness of muzzle gives the appearance of jaw strength. Never having a "down face", good specimens have comparatively large nostrils as well as width in the bottom jaw for 6 incisors, which gives this desired strength to the jaw.
NECK: Good length, proudly arched.
Comment: This must be in balance with the all over dog! The neck must be carried proudly and flow into well-laid shoulders. At this time, however, this is an area where the breed often still needs some improvement. The neck should be of good length, however, the desire for a shortness of loin often makes this aspect a little difficult to achieve. The neck should have an arch, which is a sign of strength in a specimen.
FOREQUARTERS: Forelegs straight and fine. Shoulders well laid.
Comment: Forelegs should be straight and fine, with no turning in or out of the feet. Shoulders well laid, almost equal length of shoulder to upper arm. Moderate breadth of chest with well fitting elbows.
BODY: Short, strong and well proportioned. Level topline. Ribs well sprung. Strong loin with moderate tuck up.
Comment: An overall balanced appearance is essential. A just 'off-square', well muscled, compact dog with a level top line is required. Good length of rib, a short strong loin with only a moderate tuck up. The rib cage should be well sprung and never barrel shaped. Length of rib should be longer than length of loin. When going over a Löwchen you want to find a well developed rib cage, and a strong well muscled body, even though he is a toy breed. The brisket should be only deep enough so as not to force out the elbows, which should lie close to the body. A level topline supports the frame and there should be no falling away over the croup. Short legs, long bodies, roached back and low set or 'flag' tails are all untypical of the breed and so are undesirable.
HINDQUARTERS: Hindlegs well muscled, with good turn of stifle. Straight when viewed from rear.
Comment: A well muscled and angulated hindquarter is requires. The turn of stifle, though described in the Standard as "good", is not as exaggerated as in breeds such as Whippets, Poodles, Bichons etc. Balance being of prime importance. A unique feature of the breed is the hind action. There should be no hint of a racey appearance. From the rear there should be no inclination to a 'wishbone' or cow hocked appearance. Unfortunately, in the past the Löwchen rear view was referred to as having a "wishbone" appearance. This was an attempt to explain the well muscled hindquarters, even in a baby puppy. This has caused a lot of confusion. The Löwchen, when viewed from the rear, should NEVER be so wide as to distort the dog, when moving this gives the appearance of them having 'dirtied their pants'!
At the same time the Löwchen does not have the hind drive of a Maltese! A well-rounded and well-muscled hindquarter is most typical of the breed. Good length of second thigh, and hocks short and well let down and parallel when viewed from the rear - you need to look as good grooming will cover up cow hocks! Stifles should not be over angulated.
FEET: Small, round
Comment: Feet should be small, neat and well knuckled. A correctly groomed Löwchen will have its feet completely clipped at least level with the back of the pad.
TAIL: Medium length, clipped with tuft of hair to resemble a plume. Carried gaily on move.
Comment: It is quite acceptable for Löwchens to drop their tails when in repose, and this must never be penalised. However, they must always carry their tails well up and over their backs when on the move. The tail should be balanced with one third clipped and two thirds plume.
** In England they have discussed the fact that on the continent they don't want these dogs heavily scissored looking like a Poodle, and also they don't want a 'pom-pom' on the tail, you want a plume like the plume on the end of a lions tail. This is part of their characteristic.*
GAIT/MOVEMENT: - Free, parallel movement for and aft, no hackneyed action.
Comment: Löwchens have a totally unexaggerated movement, with a long forward stride and good rear drive (without exception) and appear to move effortlessly.
These dogs around home tend to gallop or walk on their back legs much more than they ever run. A Löwchen is fast moving, (never to be raced but moving out freely) gay and lively in nature, with an effortless balanced reach and drive. Don't expect a young Löwchen to be quiet and steady as he is a clown and he is always ready to play!
It has become a habit for exhibitors to kneel down to stack a Löwchen this is because the Judges seem to expect to see them standing still all facing in the one direction! This stops the Löwchen showing one of its main characteristics - how can he be a gay, happy, lively little dog if he is being shown in this manner?
The Löwchen is not excessively angulated, he still must have correct angulation for balance and movement, and you don't want to end up with this dog driving around the ring like a Poodle, or like some breeds in the toy group, such as the Maltese or Bichon. If you have this excessive drive you have completely lost the correct Löwchen movement.
COAT: Fairly long, wavy, never curly. Single coat of soft texture.
Comment: A wave in the coat is not a disqualification, although a curl, such as in a Bichon is considered a major fault. The breed has no undercoat and coat quality is fine with a soft, although not silky texture. Hard, coarse or wiry coats are to be heavily penalized.
There is no such thing as a 'mismarked' Löwchen. Their colour changes periodically throughout their life. Other than white or parti-coloured dogs, Löwchens are born a solid colour and change as they get older.
SIZE: Height: 25-33cm (10-13ins.) At withers.
Comment: To the English Löwchen Club, this is rather a bone of contention between the breed and the Kennel Club. To quote their Breed Standard Extension:
"The club has frequently endeavoured to have this clause altered. We believe, though some personal preferences must play their part, in England a Löwchen under 12 inches is considered by many specialist generally too small and over 13 inches is more often acceptable"
Remember always balance, never low and long, or any other unbalance appearance!
I thank you for taking an interest in our lovely Little Lions (Löwchens) and hope that the information contained in these pages will help you to see what a wonderful and rare breed the Löwchen really is.